October 10, 2015

[Review] The Light Shineth, part 1 - Law Dogs & The Sloane Gang

The new pine box The Light Shineth has finally been released! We've waited for new cards for a long time, since GenCon - that was full two months ago! The box brings lots of goodies, including three new homes and even a new Joker! In fact, there are so many new cards that I'm going to split the review into four parts, each covering ten new cards. Today we'll look at Law Dogs and The Sloane Gang.
Some new homes challenge you to figure out how to utilize them best, while others pretty much build new deck archetypes around themselves. This one seems to fit right into several existing decks, namely Rafi's Deputies and Nuns with Swords. The first one puts the Deputy keyword to good use, while the second one is all about the Blessed dudes swinging fiery blades. But the two don't combine well - mostly because Deputy stuff has low value and fails Miracle pulls. Perhaps things are about to change? Let's take a closer look at each one of the new home's effects.

"Your Deputies with a Melee weapon have +1 bullets" - this is a nice bonus, although not something that's worth building a deck around. Melee weapons usually give you at least +2 bullets, and one more will not make a significant difference. The good thing is that you don't lose this extra bullet if your opponent's posse has an unbooted non-Melee weapons, and it also helps if your lead shooter (fencer?) gets Unprepared or Fastered. Basically, +1 bullet is meh when everything is going well, but it actually becomes handy when things go bad. And as we all know, in Gomorra things go bad all the time.

"Your Deputies with a Miracle weapons have +1 influence" - now this is interesting. We all love Andrew Burton, his only weak point is 0 influence: he cannot control deeds or deny upkeep to your opponent. Now he can, once you attach a Miracle to him. Unfortunately, there are only two other dudes in the game that are both Deputies and Blessed - Abram XP and the new gal Deborah West. And they naturally have influence anyway - a leap from 0 to 1 is much bigger than from 1 to 2. There are some other Blessed dudes that I'd be more inclined to play if they had some natural influence, like Rev. Perry Inbody and Ebenezer Springfield. If only there was a way to Deputize them (oh Tin Star, you could've been playable...)

"Noon, Boot: One of your dudes gains the Deputy keyword" - that's just what we need! Besides providing bonus bullets and influence to dudes with Melee weapons and Miracles attached, this effect also maximizes the output of Faster on the Draw, plus some other nice cards like Rafi HamidLegal Instruments, and Dog's Duster. The general point here is that we already had almost enough strong effects to justify building a deck that focuses of Deputies - and the new home might've just crossed that line for us.

However, the timing of this ability is kinda awkward. I really wish it was a React to when the turn starts. As it is now, you might not have the time to deputize your dude before your opponent tries to Kidnap someone, and so you won't have the full benefits of Faster on the Draw and Rafi. But the worst part is, your 0-influence Blessed dudes won't control any deeds during upkeep. Plus, unlike the other two homes available to Law Dogs, this one doesn't have any built-in mechanism to force shootouts - and in a meta full of Clowns and Landslide you really want one. Finally, the new home doesn't solve the problem mentioned in the first parahraph - Deputies and Blessed dudes don't combine well, because good Deputy stuff has low values, while good Miracles have relatively high difficulty.

The bottom line is that to make the most out of the new home, you'll have to significantly restrict your deckbuilding, and if you're not willing to do that, partial benefits might just not be worth it. Hopefully, it will only get stronger as the card pool expands ;)

Deborah West

Lookie here, a Blessed Deputy! And a conditional stud to boot! Well, any Deputy is a conditional stud if you're playing Faster on the Draw, but - yeah, you already know it, 6's fail pulls for most Miracles. And unfortunately the new gal has a skill of only 0. Okay then, let's not play Faster, there are other ways to turn her 3 bullets from bronze into silver. One is built-it, and works kinda like reverse-Jacqueline: if Deborah issues a callout or leads a job, she becomes a stud. This is not really reliably, if you count on it as your main way to turn her bullets silver, it will hamper your mobility too much. It's a nice bonus thought, and it might make your opponent's life a bit harder, delay them while you search for a more reliable tool to studlify her - Consecration or Sword of the Spirit + Rapier. With the new home's help, Deborah'll turn into a 7-stud 2-influence juggernaut.

Compared to Sister Lois Otwell, you pay 1 more upkeep for Deborah in return for a permanent +1 bullet, potential studliness, and a natural Deputy keyword. All these bonuses you can get some other way, but there's nothing that'll reduce her 1 upkeep... Wait, actually there is, it's called Huntsmen's Society and you're likely to be playing it if you're using Rapiers. Well then, that settles it.

Deborah is a very fine dude for a Nuns with Swords deck, both as a filler and as a starter. She's on the same level as Sister Lois Otwell and Sister Mary Gideon, and just like them, she requires some tools to really shine. Still, I'd rather start dudes with 0 upkeep, give them the Deputy trait using the home ability, and turn them into studs with some Miracles, rather than start a slightly srtonger dude with upkeep and hope to draw into Huntsmen's Society early enough.

The Sheriff is dead, long live the Sheriff! This new one doesn't mind if your opponent cheats, but opposing wanted dudes quickly draw his attention. This is probably the cheapest new King, in a matchup vs. Desolation Row you can actually play him for free! And not just Des. Row - any faction desperate enough to commit five dudes to a Kidnappin risks facing the new Sheriff on the first turn! Just make sure you can support his 3 upkeep.

If your opponent doesn't actively engage into shootouts at you private locations, you can take the matter into your own hands and issue warrants using the base Law Dogs home or the spell Confession (you might be using it if you're playing The Arsenal or an Ol' Fashioned Hangin' deck). If you're playing the new home, then the Sheriff will probably not come cheap, but once he hits the board he'll make one hell of an impact, unbooting all your Deputies - every turn! By the way, watch out, you're gonna see the word "unboot" a lot in this review series. Looks like Design has finally decided that it's time for Clowns to step back a bit :)

Actually, in a Miracles deck (either The Arsenal or Abram's Crusaders) you might not have to bother paying his upfront cost at all - just start his less experienced version and upgrade him for free! Remember though that you can only upgrade (or downgrade) a dude by 1 level at a time, meaning that you cannot promote the non-exp Abram straight to Sheriff - he has to find God first.

Overall I like the new Kings, I expect them to see much more play than the old ones, even off value - and that's definitely a good thing.

Fiery Rhetoric

This spell can make for the most epic comeback ever. Imagine this: your opponent sends his whole posse to Kidnap one of your dudes, they succeed at their dirty job and go home booted, you play the new Sheriff for free, attach this Miracle to him, gain 5 control points, and win the game - all that on turn 1, without having any deeds on the board!

If your opponent is not actively putting bounties on his own dudes, you could help him by using the base Law Dogs home or Confession - same thing as with the new Sheriff. Heey, maybe you could even play them both in one deck... Could it be that in a couple expansion, a low-value Miracle deck might emerge? Still, for Fiery Rhetorics to be played on-value, you'd need a Blessed 3 - a long shot.

For now, you can take a couple of these off-value, but the question is - is it any better than Lay On Hands? It might be, in the right deck. We'll test and see.


Ooooh, Clown hate! Sweeeet! This spell blocks Paralysis Mark, Phantasm, Soul Blast (to some extent), and the Oddities of Nature ability, plus Pistol Whip and Wendy - that's quite the list! And it unboots your dude - no extra ghost rock, no 'pull and possibly blow up' nonsence, no 'boot to unboot' - just a plain honest unbooting effect. Want an extra move? Or maybe, go on a job, then get back to business right away? Heck, if you play Prayer on your Mad Scientist, you could invent two gadgets per turn!... Ugh, sorry, I got carried away...

The possibilities are many. In fact, just like with Miracle decks in general, you can get trapped if you try to get everything done. There are decisions to be made: do I use the spell right away and protect my dude from nasty surprises, but waste the unbooting effect? Or do I wait until my dude is booted to unboot him but risk getting Unprepared and/or Pistol Whipped? Also note that if you use it at Noon, your dude is protected until after Sundown, and if you use in during a shootout, then protection wears off after the shootout ends.

The spell's difficulty is higher than its value, so you need either Abram or Sister Mary Gideon to reliably cast it, and you still have to cut 7's (Shield of Faith is good, and Kidnappin' might be vital for the new home since it doesn't have an innate way to force fights). Well, Rev. Perry could still cast it, but he's probably not the main target for for your opponent's booting and moving effects. Although, if you give him Walk the Path, he becomes an efficient unbooting machine.

The cost of 2 ghost rock is rather steep. Normally it wouldn't bother me much, since I often use General Store in skill-based decks. However, Miracles lack a good spell at Q♥ - Soothe really doesn't make the cut. Hopefully that's gonna change sometime soon.

Between Dumbstruck, Sword of the Spirit, and the new Sheriff, Miracle decks are going to be really annoying for Clowns. That is, the type of Clowns that rely on paralyzing and phantasming you. Some of them will just engage you, unprepare your dudes, curse your blood, sling some hexes, and plain outshoot you. So don't forget to take cards that actually help you win shootouts.

Now, let's see what the new pine box has to offer for the godless bandits of The Sloane Gang.

Den of Thieves

Law Dogs' main theme is anti-wanted hate and cheatin' punishment. The Sloane Gang, on the opposite, loves cheatin' and being wanted. And, apparently, Grifters.

Remember that time, back when we only had the core set, people said: "Other games have a standard mulligan rule, but in Doomtown the ability to mulligan is attached to a specific dude - weeeird!" Well, it's not just about mulligan now, these days Grifters come in all kinds of flavors. At the moment, Sloane has access to three of them: Travis, Gina, and The Fixer. And with this new home, you basically get two for the price of one. How about starting both Gina and The Fixer and having 7 cards in your opening hand, making John "Aces" Radcliffe a stud from the very first turn? Just masu sure to pack some extra influence. Oh, and in case you have more Grifters in your deck, they come at a discounted price too!

Now, the React ability. Gain 1 ghost rock and +1 hand rank are clear advantages, while 1 bounty and an illegal hand look like downsides. So, fair trade? Or can we leverage it more to our advantage?

Even without Desolation Row, there are ways to profit from having bounty on your dudes: Fred Aims gives you influence that you might be lacking if you're starting two grifters, Silas Aims works well with Shotgun, Pearl-Handled Revolver, or Legendary Holster, Maria Kingsford can get scary with Soul Blast or Mirror Mirror, and Milt Clemons gives you money. What, you're saying that they're not Grifters, so you cannot put bounty on them with the Den's ability? Makaio Kaleo can help with that, as well as the new goods Monte Bank (more on that later).

It's harder to turn an illegal hand into an advantage. There's only one card in the game that rewards you for cheatin' - Barton Everest. Note though that if you reveal a legal hand, then use the Den's ability to make it illegal, Barton's trait will not trigger - he only cares about the moment when you reveal it. On the other hand, the same is true for Philip Swinford and Tommy Harden - they won't punish you if you turn a legal hand into an illegal one.

Between Barton Everest, Den of Thieves, and the new Devil's Joker, you get quite a lot of motivation to cheat. Your hand rank can go so high, cheatin' resolutions won't even screw you up much. But you know what's the best protection against cheatin' punishment? As qkieu taught us, it's No Turning Back. You show 'em an illegal 5-of-a-kind, they hit you with Bottom Dealin', you play NTB, lose Travis or Gina, pump The Fixer to 6-stud, then next round you show 'em another 5-of-a-kind, but they don't have any more cheatin' res. Sounds fun! Note that if you load your Grifter with bounties, then ace them to NTB, your opponent won't collect any money. Oh, and fear Coachwhip, it can be nasty.

Note that you can put bounty on your Grifters that are not in the posse - unlike Shootout and Resolution abilities, Reacts can originate from outside the shootout, and are not restricted by whom they can affect.

If you know that your opponent packs a lot of cheatin' punishment but you still want to use your home ability, you can do it during lowball. Making your hand illegal probably won't be too bad, and if they punish you for it - hey, one less resolution to worry about during shootouts! Increasing your hand rank during lowball might be a bad idea though, but you can do it when you're losing/winning anyway.

Overall, a very risky outfit that can really shake up some metas - I hear in some places they fear cheatin' punishment so much, they won't ever cheat willingly; and since cheatin' is so rare, people pack less puishment. Those guys are in for a treat ;)

Hmm, this one is hard to evaluate. 5-cost 1-upkeep usually comes with either 2 influence or 2 stud. This gal has 3 bullets, but they're bronze, so you better give her a Pearl-Handled Revolver or play Stakes. But that's trivial, the interesting part is her ability: discard a goods card at her location from play, bonus points if it's a Horse. Sounds promising! Shotgun and Legendary Holster win games, there are lots of other useful goods that you'd be glad to relieve your opponent of - it also hoses Gadget decks, and you can actually steal a horse sometimes! What's not to like?

Well, you have to boot Sammy in the same location as an opposing dude with a goods card that you want to get rid of. I mean, if it was 'this or adjacent location' it would rock, but in it's current form it ain't all that easy to use. Your opponent buys a Shotgun, you move Sammy into the town square, he moves another dude to call you out, and the dude with a Shotgun boots to join. It's just too easy to play around this ability.

Still, she does impose certain restrictions on your opponent's movement, and that definitely matters in a game of Doomtown. Plus, if the enemy doesn't feel like fighting you right now and would rather load his dudes with gadgets first, you can just go to his home and blow up his toys - rude, but effective. So yes, her ability is rather limited - and pretty expensive, at the cost of 1 ghost rock and 1 bounty per use - but otherwise it could've been a bit unbalanced. I don't know if she makes for a good starter, but with the value of 7♠ she's an excellent filler for most Sloane decks.

One thing about Sammy does annoy me though. Her ability is very effective against Gadget decks, gimmicky Soul Cage decks, and even some Miracle decks (the ones that rely on Sword of the Spirit), but it's absolutely useless when facing the dominant Clown Control archetype. Is it really what we need in the meta right now, more hate for the underperforming archetypes? Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's a bad idea per se - it just looks like the timing for this effect is bad.

Also, I really wouldn't want to see more effects that permanently steal other player's cards. Puppet creates enough headache in that regard, and remember all the times you accidently shuffled the Corp's agendas into your Runner deck... Eh, sorry for the rant. It's a fine card in the end.

Sloane (Exp.1)

The Boss. I cannot help but compare her to the new Sheriff.

+1 bullet, -1 cost, minus the Deputy trait and the Blessed skill. Well, that round seems like a victory fot the God's man.

Discount for each of your wanted dudes, as opposed to the total bounty on other players' dudes. Clearly, with the same board state, Abram will usually get a bigger discount. However, you do have much more control over when your own dudes become wanted. Play Kidnappin' yourself, don't wait for your opponent to do it. And if you don't have any job cards, use the home ability (Desolation Row or Den of Thieves). By the time you draw into the Boss, you're likely to have enough wanted dudes to play her for cheap. This round's winner is unclear, but it's probably Sloane.

Unboot all of your wanted dudes anywhere once, as opposed to unbooting anjacent Deputies every turn. Well, 'every turn' does sound nicer than 'once', at least to my ear. Oh, and Sloane gets a huge bounty on her head. I know I said that bounties can be benificial, but that's when you have control over who gets them. In this particular situation I honestly don't see how you can turn it to your advantage. Abram wins this round.

Also note that you can start Abram Grothe (Exp.1) for cheap (relatively), promote him to Sheriff for free, and have the full benefit of his ability. Starting non-exp Sloane is much harder, and upgrading her won't even trigger get unbooting effect, because overlaying a dude with his experienced version isn't considered to be bringing a new dude into play.

Well, in all honesty, two dudes from different outfits probably shouldn't be compared like that. We have to look at the context here, at what these factions do, how they're different, and how useful the new King (err, Queen?) is for the deck that's going to play her.

I think she's still pretty good. The Sloane Gang has different tempo, they're often all about total aggression, and unbooting your whole posse after a Kidnappin' is really strong. Sloane is not as powerful as Abram in the long term, but she's more realiable, and if she and her gang can finish the job quickly enough, it's all that matters.

A goods card with production, that's something new. It pays for itself in two turns, but if you attach it to a Grifter, you start making profit right away. And any dude turns into a Grifter, huh.

My general rule is: try not to attach utility goods to Grifters, they have a habit of beng the first to go down in a gunfight, so you lose your investments. There are three situations when attaching goods to Grifters might be a good idea.

First, if you don't plan to head out to the town sqaure gunz blazing on the very first turn, then your Grifters might get to live for a couple turns, and since Monte Bank is free, they'll make you some profit.

Second, there are some decks that don't plan to fight, so their Grifters stick around for a long time. Yep, we know 'em, we hate 'em, it's Landslide decks. More income that cannot be denied, just what we needed in the meta.

Third, and the reason this card is actually in this part of the review, is that it seems like a natural fit for Den of Thieves. You get two starting Grifters, you might have some extra ones in the deck, and turning your other dudes into Grifters actually makes sense - you'd much rather put the bounty from the Den's ability on Milt Clemons or Fred Aims.

I'm not sure how an aggressive Sloane deck and long-term economy work together, but hey, maybe it's not supposed to be an aggro deck! Maybe we'll get a new Monteslide build that doesn't plan to shoot at all, gains 4-6 undeniable income every turn, and is generally a pain in the ass. Ugh, I already hate it.

That's really cool, an alternative Joker! This one gives you a +2 hand rank and makes your hand illegal. Just put it into your Den of Thieves deck with Barton Everest and No Turning Back. Oh, and it's a pain to see this in lowball. Might want to use The Extra Bet just in case.

Here are some example deck I threw together while writing this review. Will test them on OCTGN soon.

Abram's Crusaders (10+J+K) Nuns with Swords

Abram's Crusaders (8+9+10) New Sheriff In Town

Den of Thieves (5+7+8) Damn Cheaters!

Den of Thieves - Monteslide

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